Shawn’s Place: Small Tract Mgmt September 1st, 2012

Hey All, I hope everyone is fired up and ready for deer season. I know some places have already opened up and many more will soon.

Back to my place, it’s the first day in September so it’s time to talk about the food plots I planted this year; The good, the bad and the somewhat ugly. The food plot plan I developed winter had four goals in mind 1) To provide spring greens to help the deer recover from winter 2) To provide high protein forage throughout the summer 3) Provide a source of fall attractant and 4) Provide winter forage for the deer that winter on my place. As I go through each goal below, I’ll grade each goal out with how I think I did this season.

To accomplish these goals, I tried to follow the most affordable approach and best practices I could when planting. As far as the equipment needed to get this done, I figured that things would not be cheap no matter what right away. You could go cheaper than I did because I went ahead and spent $1400 on a rough cut mower (pulls behind the atv) , spent another $400 on the the Ground Hog Max ATV disc and $125 on a chain drag. The last three important tools I purchased was a gas weed trimmer for $125, a backpack sprayer $80 and a bag seed spreader for $30.

I purchased way more seed than expected as I’ll later explain but here is what I got: For the micro plot I found the BioLogic Alphaclover mix on sale so I purchased enough for the micro plot for $8. For the main two green fields I started out with 1.5 acres worth of Anther King’s trophy clover mix. I had to buy more clover seed from a local dealer and then another ½ acre worth from Whitetail Institute. It’s crazy that I spent $150 on all of this but the weather made things tough so it is what it is. For the rest of my larger plot, I split it up between regular roundup ready beans and Antler King’s Redzone. Again, due to the weather I had to reseed and ended up sending $225 for 4 bags of beans and $75 for a full acre worth of Redzone. That is a lot of see crammed into what amounts to 2.25 acres. Even after all of that, the drought was cruel and ugly. I say that because I am having to replant some of this area again but Buck Forage Oats this time around. Add another $35 for that seed.

Besides the seed I also purchased an Antler King PH test kit and had to fertilize and lime a little. I got this all on sale so this was done for $450. The last needed items were some organic wedding killer ($0…I’ll explain later) , some Roundup $20 and some DeltaAg Soil treatment (gift card). Add this all up and I spent over $950 on my 2.5 acres plus close to $2,000 in start-up equipment for a grand total coming in around $3000.

Looking ahead to next year I do not expect to spend as much even though I will add a tad more acreage. I expect that I’ll need one more bag of clover seed at $35, about $100 in barn lime, $200 in fertilizer, $75 in Redzone, $230 in beans, $50 in sunflowers and $35 in Buck Forage Oats.

Regardless of the season and forage used, my overall stategy was to have my primary plot as far away from the road and neighbors as possible to minimize the human interaction and to hopefully have some daytime activity around the plots. Because this is the center for all of the deer activity, I also needed to make sure that at no time during the season there would not be a preferablr food source here. I accomplised this by planting my plots in strips and you’ll see in the photos below. Now that I showed you what I purchased and my placement strategy, let’s go through each of the goals I listed above and grade them out.

Spring Greens: I knew that having ground which hadn’t been worked in years meant that by the time I would get my spring planting complete it would be in too late to help the deer this year recover from winter. What I did to offset the lack of protein forage was put out the legal limit worth of protein blocks by my house so the does would get a little extra nutrition before the fawning season.

Even thought the green plots would not exist to help this spring, it still was a good time to get something set up to be around for the deer’s mid-summer needs and be a nice full plot for fall when everything else is brown. I chose to start the main plots (see the 3-29 article: D & G) with Antler Kings Trophy Clover. I liked this mix because it has worked well for me in the past and because the mix contains rape and chicory to add a little more variety to the plot. Unfortunately, right after I planted a huge rain storm came in and washed away the top layer of the soil and many of the clover seeds with it. I planted round two and then it rained really hard again once again, this time uncovering the sprouted roots. This also happened to be the last measureable rain for the next 25 days so most of that clover cooked due to the exposure (The rape did excellent). It rained again over Memorial Day weekend round three of clover (no rape) was planted. This amounted to little value because we got hit with more hot and dry weather.

This summer I came across Whitetail Institute’s clover and wanted to give this a shot because their seed has a rain absorption coating on it. I purchased a bag of that and planted it with the most recent August rains. I’m pretty impressed with the WTI seed so far because it has done a pretty nice job of filling in my once sparse plot.

Because of the conditions it’s hard to grade out this goal. Did the Antler King clover struggle because the seed tolerance level to drought was marginal or would anything planted right away have had a hard time? I will say that it still has been pretty dry this August and the WTI clover appears to be doing well considering.

The micro plot (see 3-29 article) was plant early with the Biologic. While I knew the alfalfa would not come up in mass qty, I figured the clover would do ok in semi-shade. Overall it did ok but it wasn’t real thick so I had to add some of the leftover Antler King and WTI seed to thicken it up. Other than a frost seeding needed for next season, this plot looks pretty good for what it is.

Spring Greens 2012 Grade:
Antler King Trophy Clover – C+/B+(for the rape and chicory)
Local clover seed mix – D
Whitetail Institute – A-
Biologic – B-
Overall Goal Grade – B

Summer Forage: Because things were so dry mid-summer the clover I planted went virtually untouched by the deer and offered no summer forage. Actually from late May through late July I had hardly any deer on my property because what I had to offer was too dry. My original intent was for the beans and redzone (mix of forage beans, sunflowers, forage peas and buckwheat) to be there for the deer during the mid summer months and it just did not pan out. In hindsight, the lack of success was due to having stunted plants and having a lot of grass/weed competition because of how I prepped the plots.

After doing some research this winter, I really wanted to see if I could plant without using a bunch of chemicals that could damage the soil and/or bind up trace minerals the deer need transferred into the plants they eat. The plan was to mow the field, spray an organic chemical mixture onto it and then double disc the field like they did in the old days. A good sign that you have good, chemical free soil is to look at how many earth worms you find in the soil. Mine was loaded with worms so I thought I was on the right path. Turns out that the organic herbicide I purchased ($225) was old stock and would not break down in my backpack sprayer so I had to junk it and get a refund. Time was running short so I never ordered anything else to kill off the weeds (If you want to do make and organic mix yourself, you need 20% vinegar and orange oil). What I did was disc the field for a third time like they for the had chemicals to treat the fields.

Once this was done, I got my beans planted and it rained so I thought I was off to a good start. With adequate rain the broadcasted, over seeded beans should have out completed any and everything, right? Wrong! To accomplish this that goal I’ve since learned that you need a lot of moisture right away and I mean a lot. This did not happen so as you can see in the photos below, my beans and redzone field is filled with ragweed, grass and etc. Since it looked like things were going to be wet for an extended period, I took someone’s advice and passed on using inoculants because the only packages left in stock to inoculate were in the 50 acres variety and I did not want to pay the extra for that. That was mistake #2…always use inoculants!

Even though I tried a method that was not as successful as I would have liked, my beans have fared better than some area fields. I will definitely make some adjustments for next year as I plan to used a different blend of beans and will use an inoculants as well as disc the seed in opposed to dragging a chain over it for better soil contact. Because I did not get a good cover crop and need to worry about the weed bank I opened up this year, I will just have to succumb to spraying the field once with roundup until a good cover crop of beans can choke out the weeds.

The redzone did better right away with many sunflowers, buckwheat and forage peas coming up. What I can report is that the forage peas do not like dry weather so as soon as they grew up, they dried out instantly. The buckwheat sort of did the same thing but lasted much longer, the deer just were not around to eat it mid-summer. I actually have another crop of buckwheat that is maturing now which is being utilized. The sunflowers have mostly come and gone and were eaten a lot, I just wish I had more with fresh seeds in them now. For anyone planting redzone I would recommend planting it in two stages so you have some sunflowers leftover for early season. The forage beans in the mix have fared just like the crop beans, stunted and with a few pods per plant.

Summer Forage 2012 Grade:
Seed – B+
Feed Tonnage – C
Implementation – C
Overall Goal Grade – C+

Fall Attractant/Winter Forage:
The dry weather actually took out 100% of the beans in one section so I opted to disc that area and plant some Buck Forage Oates. Again, I find myself waiting/praying for rain. I did spray the area this time with Roundup after learning my lesson. Assuming the Buck Forage Oat come up well and with what I will have left from the redzone and beans I should have more than enough food to carry the deer into early December. The problems starts in late December, I just won’t have enough food to help the deer all winter long so I may have to supplement the shortage.
It is a little early to tell how many deer will hit my plots this fall so my grade here is more of a guess than anything but I’m pretty optimistic.

Fall Attractant 2012 Grade:
Seed – B+
Attractiveness – A
Feed Tonnage – B

Winter Forage:
Attractiveness – A
Feed Tonnage – D
Overall Goal Grade: B+

Below are picutes of my plot to illistrate how things have turned out this year.

The clover/rape/chicory plot looking west twoards where the redzone, beans and buck forage oats.
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A closer look at the green field.
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The area tilled and planted with buck forage oats.
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My overgrown bean plot.
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What it looks like through the all the weeds.
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Even with weeds throughout the plot we have pod production.
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The redzone is still producing forage.
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Lokking back at the green field.
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Between the harsh conditions we faced in 2012 and working new ground, my food plotting experience was a real learning experience. My hope is that you’ll be able to take something away from my experience that is applicable it to your proprty. In summary, I have some pretty healthy at my place and have offered them a food source that never existed before so in my mind that as a win. This results in a harvest this year, all the better.

Best of luck to you this season!

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